Wednesday, September 27, 2006
I'm not going to Germany

Sunday, September 24, 2006
While you were away...
I'm pretty good at keeping up with the New York Times (I'm a site browser, not one of those self-importants that waltzes around with a print copy underarm pretending they could actually make it through that much news on a daily basis—ask Justin about the professor that made them read the entire thing every day. Besides, I have other publications I subscribe to that I can read in public when I want to be intellectually flaunting) , but during the week I spent in the Canadian wilderness, I missed this gem on July 3rd:

Thanks to YouTube Fans, 'Nobody's Watching' May Return From the Dead

I was spending the lazy Sunday morning watching YouTube in bed (why didn't they initially market household wireless as the joy of snuggling up with a Thinkpad?). Nobody's Watching Diet Coke & Mentos was featured, which led me to Nobody's Watching's pilot.

It's a sitcom about two Ohio twentysomethings that spend all of their time watching sitcoms who make a video about how bad modern sitcoms are and send it to a bunch of networks, one of which invites the two of them to fly to California to star on a reality show about them making their own sitcom.

Which is so awesome. And postmodern.

So, for your viewing enjoyment:

Nobody's Watching Part 1
Nobody's Watching Part 2
Nobody's Watching Part 3
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Activist hotbeds: Berkeley, San Francisco...
...and Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, population 18,435.

From my hometown newspaper, the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune: Bush question will be on ballot.
The question reads, "Resolved: The U.S. House of Representatives should start an impeachment investigation against President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney now." … The question also will appear on ballots in San Francisco, Cunningham Township, Ill., Champaign City, Ill., Berkeley, Calif., and Pittsville.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Back home.
From a January post about The Ultimate Madison Bar Tour:
I need to make it back to Mickey's on Williamson.
Mission accomplished. Pete and I patronized Mickey's on Sunday night. I was at work, 2,000 miles away, the next morning.

I'm a jet-setter that flys to Madison, Wisconsin instead of cool Parisian parties.

The reason for the spontaneous trip wasn't joyous—I went to attend the funeral of my great-grandmother. I've been lucky enough to have had my lifespan overlap a significant amount with both of my great-grandmothers. Marcella was the second to pass away.

On the topic of jet setting to Madison, I'll be flying there three times in six weeks. I'm back in two weeks for a wedding and two weeks after that on a business trip.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Gaming the Ranking System
Recently, in the The Economist:

The ladder of fame

(and, also, an obligatory link to The Onion article: Oooh, Look At Me, I Read The Economist!)

It's a shame that it's one of the "premium content" articles, but it's primarily a critique of the U.S. News & World Report's college rankings. There's one key quote:
Colin Diver, the president of Reed College in Oregon, considers that "rankings create powerful incentives to manipulate data and distort institutional behaviour." A school may game the system by soliciting applications from students who stand no chance of admission, or by leaning on alumni to arrange jobs for graduates.
Keeping with the theme of this blog, let's relate it to my own personal life. Last week, I returned home to find a letter from the UW-Madison School of Business, which I've taken two classes from, but as an economics major, not a business student. It was signed by the school's dean. It began:
You and I have something in common. We both graduated from the UW-Eau Claire Department of Economics, which I understand is now the home of the Flying Pig. I hope your experience at UW-Eau Claire was as good as mine.


I believe a Wisconsin MBA can greatly contribute to your success. I feel so strongly about it, in fact, I'm willing to personally cover the cost of your application fee. [emphasis in original]
Set aside the fact that I've never attended UW-Eau Claire (a follow-up letter later apologized for the mixup. The Eau Claire letter was sent to Madison economics alumni). And the fact that I'm about as interested in an MBA as I am in getting pneumonia. And the fact that now I'm very curious about this flying pig business (answer here). Why would they send me such a letter? Why waive the application fee?

I'd like to be self-flattering and assume that they were so impressed by my performance as an undergraduate that they'd like to bring me in to dazzle them with my academic performance, enliven classroom discussion, and eventually leave and make the school proud with my many post-graduation successes.

I, of course, have no intention of doing any of those things, nor, do I believe, do they think I do. It's more that, being part of UW system, the school has access to a lot of alumni information. The letter I received went to plenty of economics major alumni, and I doubt they solely went to those with a high GPA or those who landed particularly prestigious jobs.

Rather, the numbers have something to do with it. The current dean has been credited with rapidly pulling the school up in the rankings lately. Partially, it's been due to specialization to differentiate from powerful generalist schools like Wharton and Harvard (see B-Schools With A Niche).

But soliciting applications is a great trick for boosting numbers. Of course, intuitively, the more applicants you have, the better the pickings when selecting an entering class (boosting the average GPA and test score numbers). But any applicant, regardless of quality, is an asset because, if rejected, it's a boost to that other prestige-linked stat, selectivity.

Maybe I'm too distrustful if their intent, but hey, as the page on the flying pig reads, "good economists should have a healthy skepticism."

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